Sand, Shingle and Saltmarsh on the Southwest Solent Shore

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Lowland and Hill Walks
Aug 14

30 people attending

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12 people waitlisted

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Event booking closes on Aug 14 at 10:00:00
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Distance: 20 km (12.5 miles); terrain: flat with grass, dirt, gravel, beach shingle and tarmac; total climb is 161 m.

Most visitors to the New Forest in summer will head to Brockenhurst and Lymington. Fewer will head to the area we're going to, perhaps because of the industrial complexes nearby. But we'll soon turn our backs on those to experience a range of habitats and landscapes from saltmarsh to meadow, from woodland to heath, from shingle spit to sandy beach; and a range of buildings and structures from seaplane hangers to a Tudor castle and from mansions to a folly. Popular Lepe Country Park will be busy, so we'll picnic elsewhere on the coast. On a hot and sunny August day, a flattish, shortish, breezy seaside walk like this should be preferable, and the swim and cafe stops on it essential.

The sights:

Fawley: A village synonymous with the Esso oil refinery and (closed) power station, but with an old core and green surroundings. Of the industrial complexes, we'll just see the power station which was built in 1965. The vast, 198 metre tall chimney is due to disappear when the site is redeveloped. Cadland House was from 1775, designed by Henry Holland with a Capability Brown-designed park, but was rebuilt in a Georgian style in 1935 after a fire. 

Eaglehurst: A wooded estate of fine houses on the Solent shore. Luttrell's Tower is an inhabited folly built in 1780 by Thomas Sandby just above the beach on a low cliff. Elegant, castellated and gothick in style. Clough Williams-Ellis (architect of Portmeirion) designed the stepway up from the beach in 1926-7.

Calshot Spit: A shingle spit extending into the Solent with an artillery fort built by Henry VIII in 1539-40 to defend the sea passage to Southampton from the French and Spanish. Used more recently as a Navy and RAF base. Calshot Naval Air Station was originally set up in 1913 for the development of flying boats. In 1929 and 1931, Calshot was the venue for the Schneider Trophy, an international air race for seaplanes.

Lepe Country Park: The Visit Hampshire website states: 'The long stretch of shingle beach is popular...From the shoreline you can look across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. Watch yachts, ferries and cargo ships on their way to and from the harbours and marinas dotted along the south coast...Lepe Point nature reserve is the perfect spot to enjoy coastal and river views. The meadows and woodlands are protected habitats for wildlife and well worth visiting. Head to the pond for dragonflies and damselflies, pop into the hide for a spot of birdwatching and traverse the boardwalk for all the other wildlife this wonderful location has to offer....Lepe has played a fascinating role in our nation’s history. The site played a vital role in the D-Day landings, the cold war and was once a hot spot for smugglers.' Indeed, Mulberry Harbours and Phoenix Caissons were built at Lepe for D-Day and there are sections of pier along the shore. 

Exbury: We won't see much of the famous gardens and the house at the centre, but we will see St Katharine's Church (a 1907-8 stone recladding of a brick church from 1827-30) which has a burial place for the Rothschild family of Exbury. Glimpsed will be Upper Exbury House, built for Leopold de Rothschild in 1964 as a private concert venue. Handsome Inchmery House was built in around 1790.

The route (please click on the link in red to be taken to the Ordnance Survey website to see the route):

Crossing Blackwell Common and heading southeast we'll skirt Langley then use footpaths to cover Blackfield Heath, Badminston and Sprat's Down and get to Calshot. Having done a loop right around Calshot Spit we'll follow the coast all along Stanswood Bay, past Eaglehurst and Lepe before turning north inland near Exbury. We'll use footpaths and lanes to get back to Blackwell Common. We'll stop at cafes on the coast for drinks and snacks. We'll also stop on the quietest, sandiest portion of the beach (probably near Stansore Point) for lunch and a swim. 


I love having dogs on my walks and this walk is suitable for them apart from during very hot weather. There is sea for them to splash in much of the way and some shade. A dog off the lead must be obedient.

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COVID-19 – IMPORTANT, Please read the following before you sign up to this event:

  • Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are extremely mild, or who lives or is in a support bubble with someone showing symptoms, is asked not to attend. This is in line with the government’s coronavirus advice.
  • All are required to practice social distancing – staying 2m (not 1m) apart at all times, including the lunch stop.
  • Unfortunately, there won’t be any planned pub / café stops en route or at the end, and please don’t share sweets or snacks with others – we’re sorry!
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(Picture credits: Beach designed for social distancing?: Photo © David Martin (cc-by-sa/2.0); Beach and sky at the mouth of the Dark Water: Photo © David Martin (cc-by-sa/2.0); Bench with a view: Photo © Steve Daniels (cc-by-sa/2.0); Bridleway to Fields Heath, Badminston Common: Photo © Jim Champion (cc-by-sa/2.0); Calshot Marshes Nature Reserve: Photo © Gillian Thomas (cc-by-sa/2.0); Calshot Beach and Beach Huts: Photo © Gillian Thomas (cc-by-sa/2.0); View across field towards Fawley Power Station: Photo © David Martin (cc-by-sa/2.0); Calshot Castle: Photo © Rob Farrow (cc-by-sa/2.0); High tide, Stanswood Bay: Photo © Pierre Terre (cc-by-sa/2.0); Stanswood Bay: Photo © Jim Champion (cc-by-sa/2.0); Luttrell's Tower: Photo © Pierre Terre (cc-by-sa/2.0); Pine trees at Lepe: Photo © John Lucas (cc-by-sa/2.0); Lepe Beach to Cowes: Photo © Gillian Thomas (cc-by-sa/2.0); Langley, cropland: Photo © Mike Faherty (cc-by-sa/2.0); Blackwell Common, pony: Photo © Mike Faherty (cc-by-sa/2.0). All pictures are copyrighted but are licensed for reuse under Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 2.0 and are here attributed to their copyright holders.)


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